Time Wraith 2. No Pain No Return 2

Cold slices through my neck.

The world tips, and I fall passing through the shadows between worlds, and out again, landing on the floor of my old record store. Coming out of time-vertigo, I sit in the front seat of my car back on that night I had hit the woman.

From the back seat, the wraith reached out at me. Instincts pulled me into the shadow world, and I tumbled sideways through the ethereal car door. He followed me passing through the car. I cried out, but only silence met my call. After hitting the pavement, I rolled out of the quiet hearing the engine lurch leading my car off the road, cool air chilling my skin, and I rolled back through the silent shadows again.

I stand in the dusty plain, my silent purgatory of pain.

"purgatory pain sky"

Beneath the storming black-and-purple clouds within violet twilight, the road fades into a colorless apparition. Trees disappear into the mist, the road dissolves, and my ghostly car smokes into wispy tendrils disappearing into the jaws of the wraith. His face, pale, nearly translucent as if his flesh caught in ghost-time between worlds.

Concentrating on the memory, I remember the space shuttle disaster, driving somewhere in the west hills, a stop sign, and the woman. I remember hitting the woman with my car, killing her, and I recall the promise I had made. The rest, details lost, a hole in my past.

How many memories has the vampire-wraith taken?

Kandy, bleed for me.

Taking a step back, something knocks my elbow, and I lurch sideways ready to attack. A shovel stands upright pierced into a pile of loose dirt. Beside the heap is a slender hole a meter deep, and at the bottom my sword, the very blade that I presume killed me.

Yet here I stand holding onto my oath within this eternal violet twilight.

The wraith stands motionless, waiting. Like rising heat, tendrils of ghost-light wave up all around. Soon I’m surrounded by a ghost city where apparitions stroll in slow motion along the sidewalk. Pale cars move silently down the street. Am I conjuring another memory? The wraith seems to wait for the ghost from my life to fully materialize. His nebulous eyes watch me, his semi-translucent lips curl into a hungry grin. Skull beneath flesh increases his sinister appearance.

I drop into the pit, grab my sword by the sheath, and leap out of the hole facing the wraith.

Watching the purple vapor pouring out of those terrible eye sockets, tendrils curling under chin, all I can think about is how much I want to smash that face apart. Holding my sword at my side, I wrap my fingers around the handle finding the calm within me.

Pale city block intensifying, I spot the ghost of my car parked along the curb.

I expect the wraith to begin sucking the ghost buildings around him, but he shimmers nearly disappearing, and in full darkness he charges me with a sword held in his hand.

A step, and I pull my blade free swinging at the wraith. He dodges, nearly teleporting aside leaving a smoking trail, and I spin around slashing down through his shoulder. Smoke swirls around the blade, and soot rains onto the ground.

The creature hunches over.

I swing, my blade slashing through the vampire-wraith, wispy tendrils streaming around and reforming into the wraith.

Glancing back at me, he shows me his toothy grin and he shakes in silent laughter.

Feeding off the pain flooding through me, I lunge at the vampire-wraith grasping his head with both hands, and tumble over pounding onto the hard ground. His fangs bite into my arm, and I scream silence. He appears fleshless again, but the ghost-light swirling around like fog nearly hides him. Smashing his skull against the ground expels dark smoke.

I refuse to let this creature take my life from me.

Slamming the skull down again cracks bone, black and violet vapor squirting from the wound. I take in his smoking blood searing my throat and burning eyes. The vampire-wraith thrashes, his elbow slamming me in the side. Determined to help the vampire-wraith find his end, I bite into his wound, my fangs breaking bone. Blood tendrils crawl into my nose, flaming into my head.

Pain is venom in my veins.

Pulling away, my teeth clenching bone shards and dripping with thick black blood puffing smoke, I gaze through the toxic cloud and see the nebulous eyes dissipate. I lift the skull and slam it down. Shards fly out into ghost-light, and disappear.

The wraith is gone.

Blood is my oath. I will survive.

Sound crashed into my ears, cool air wrapped around me, and the scent of rain tickled my nose.

Listening to the background hum of the city behind the thumping music coming from a nearby club, feeling the misting rain speckle my head and arms, I stood. Streetlamps burned my eyes, and I squinted waiting for my vision.

The rain washed the pain away.

I looked around, recognizing the city street in downtown Roseland. Grittier than I recalled. It wasn’t a memory, at least not one I had experienced before. I studied the unfamiliar billboard above a building advertising a flashy car I didn’t recognize. If the vampire-wraith had stolen this memory, there wouldn’t be a missing moment for me to find. Parked along the curb, my lovely black Fairlane waited patiently for me. I recognized the building behind her, an old hotel from the Big Band era, and it appeared different than I recalled—more proof I had escaped my purgatory. Autumn Twilight Restaurant, the signed indicated.

Touching my hips, my chest, my cheeks, sent a wave of relief washing over me. I could feel the air, and hear the city snoring in the background beyond the glorious music. As if not enough, I continued touching, testing reality. I ran my fingers through my long hair feeling the moisture clinging to the strands, over my head, and down to my cool, moist lips. My fangs. Licking my fangs, I trembled with excitement.

Jumping up and down in the middle of the street, splashing water, I danced to the music coming from a club two blocks away. Bouncing to the beat, I twirled around. The thrill of it all sent tingles down my legs and into my toes. I danced like a young girl giddy with excitement. I remembered the blade slashing my throat, and I relished in the feeling of survival even with the sensation that the memory was a window into the future. Steve Reynolds once told me that the ghosts of our past danced with the ghosts of our future across the cosmos, and at the moment I felt like I danced—am dancing—will dance with them all at once.

Death is a memory, a blood-spattered stain on the cosmos, and I welcome the dance.

"Kandy's eyes"

Final Dance

Watching the wraith emerge from the vortex, I pull my blade free and toss the sheath aside. Dressed in a black cloak, his splotchy, cracked skull peeks out from beneath the hood. He gazes at me with his pinpoints of light within eye sockets, violet smoke spilling down over jagged cheek bones. From between his rotten teeth, smoke gathers around his slender fangs and drips like blood onto his cloak. Preparing to strike, I hold my sword overhead.

He speaks, not with a voice in this silent world, but an invading thought inside my head sending a shower of painful prickles down into my neck.

Kandy, will you bleed for me?

Hell no.

Here on this side, I imagine is the only place I can kill the wraith. My churning gut reminds me this is his home where he has the advantage. If only I can catch the creature off-guard moving between worlds.

Attacking, I slash down at his head. He drifts backward evading my blade. I continue the attack, but he moves away leaving me in his smoky trail, and that stupid dead grin of his taunting me. The world darkens around me, and I realize I’m within the shadows passing back into my world. Walls appear blocking out the purple sky, and ghostly forms rise out of the darkness behind the wraith. Before he can reach the other side, I lunge, my sword slicing through churning black-and-violet mist and into his neck.

Thundering drums crack the silence, light explodes, and the scent of sweat and blood fills my nostrils. My sword slices flesh, bone, and zips through the air spraying a crimson streak across a mirror and one of the light bulbs surrounding the reflection of the dressing room.

The shocked face before me turns away, head toppling over. The body collapses to the floor.

Stratton lays dead at my feet, and his bodyguard stares down at it, stunned.

Pushing away thoughts about how the wraith tricked me and the consequences of murdering my employer, I circle around searching the dressing room for the wraith. Including the bodyguard, Stratton’s body, and a dancing girl cowering in the corner beside the lockers, nobody that matters occupies the room. Not on this side of the shadows anyway.

Purple Hell.

Crossing over, I find the wraith reaching for me with his talons. Diving into a roll, I leap up and spin around slashing at my foe. Instead of the skull, I find the face of my mentor—my friend, Steve Reynolds. His nebulous, purple eyes fade leaving normal blue eyes gazing back at me. His cool hands wrap over mine pulling the sword free.

The sky darkens, ghostly forms rise up like smoke, and I find the dance floor of Necropolis. Some of the patrons glance around in confusion while others storm up the stairs for the exit. The music hits me like a brick. Steve twirls around, dancing with me. He’s wearing his suit, of course, his tie streaming from his neck. As I spot the light flickering off the blade, the gravity of it all falls upon me. I take a step back into the shadows, music fading.

Cold slices through my neck.

Time Wraith 2. No Pain No Return 1

Smashing down on the gas pedal and turning the wheel, I drove into the other lane and around the pickup truck. Holding down on the pedal, I listened to the engine roar and felt the pounding from the pistons crawling inside me. Streetlights flickered by like strobes in a dance club. The sixty-seven Fairlane thundered like rock-and-roll and handled like jazz. I dreamed it would last forever.

Spotting a stop sign, I switched my foot to the brake, but it was too late. Intersection empty, I relaxed and drove through it. Only drunks and speeding fools were out on the streets this late at night. The street lamps gave way to a thick canopy of trees, and the road began to climb a winding path. I slowed to the speed limit and promised, no matter what, I would enjoy this day.

Like a waterfall, it fell upon me. That singular thought, that childish promise of immortality, brought the moment back. The same year the space shuttle exploded in the sky, I had been driving on this road in the west hills. Had I run a stop sign then? I tried, but I could not recall the intersection or the name of the road. I remembered the woman. A few nights after the space shuttle had exploded I had clipped a young woman crossing the street. From my neck, chills trickled down my backside, and I gripped the steering wheel feeling like I was driving down a tunnel into Hell.

After watching the woman die, I had promised to live like it was my last day, and let that day live on forever.

Rounding the corner, already seeing it in my head, I spotted the woman in the center of the lane. Smashing the brake and turning the wheel, I pulled the car into a slide and the tail end swung around. Committed to the path, no avoiding the inevitable, I let up on the brake to save my car from spinning out and prepared for collision.

Pulling out, my car leaned in the opposite direction threatening another slide. Cranking on the wheel, working brake and clutch, I found traction and slowed the car down, and realized, no impact.

Engine rumbling at idle, a toe on the brake, I eased the car over to the edge of the road. I felt certain I had hit her, like before, all over again. Twisting around, I looked behind me.

In the backseat, not quite sitting, a dark figure turned his faceless head towards me. Clouds of dark smoke swirled around him like a dress dripping soot melting away on the seat.

He spoke, not with a voice, but an invading thought inside my head sending a shower of painful prickles trickling down my neck.

Kandy, will you bleed for me?

Kandy-4-Peter 3. Coffin of Treats

All dressed in white shirts and black ties, the wait staff lined up on one side. The youngest, Laura, appeared exhausted with circles under her eyes and a bruise on the side of her temple. Running into the doorjamb to the kitchen, she had dropped her tray breaking several glasses hurting her pride more than her head. Beth stood with a beaming smile, and Richard took his place at the end folding his arms and appearing glum. Standing beside Peter, Nine placed her arm on his shoulder. Boris and his assistant, Crank—covered in food grime, lined up on the other side of Peter.

Standing beside the bar, Tara held her phone up and gazed at the display lining up the shot. The bartender, Kyle or Cal, never made it in. Tara had saved the day by stepping in behind the bar, but she had made a point of letting everyone know how unprepared they were. Eyebrows scrunched low, she examined the phone display.

“How long do we have to wait for this picture?” asked Laura. She huffed and flicked her strawberry blonde hair over her shoulder

“Any second now,” said Beth, smiling for the picture.

“Is that coffin for real?” asked Tara.

Realizing the coffin rested in the background, Peter frowned. A flash, the opening-day celebration captured three grumpy faces, a coffin behind their legs, and Nine staring at Peter with a grin that Tara would make derogatory comments on for weeks. Peter was about to suggest another try over by the stage, but he didn’t want to interrupt the crew circling around Beth to look at the image on her phone. ➥

Where had Tara disappeared to? Peter glanced around finding Laura scurrying up the stairs. The others were a clump of white and black beside the bar. Perhaps Tara had slipped out to fetch more of her wine she had brought from the vineyard. It didn’t matter. The coffin had his attention.

All Hallows’ Eve, and according to the note, he could reveal his treat. He had tracked down the name of the sender, and called twice earlier in the day leaving messages, but no response. It was a business number, the office of a man named, Steve Reynolds, a stranger.

Laura skidded to a stop and stuffed an arm through her coat. “Have school in the morning gotta go,” she said.

Peter thanked Laura for staying late, and she sped out the front door. He wished Boris and Crank a goodnight. Nine popped beside him bumping shoulders.

“Want to open it now?” asked Nine. Grinning like the devil, she elbowed Peter. “I have my tools in the break room.”

“Sure,” said Peter. Although, he didn’t feel all that certain about it. A part of him wanted an explanation, another part wanted rid of the coffin. His curious side stood like an elephant in the room.

Spinning around, Nine headed upstairs to fetch her tools.

An expensive gift from a stranger didn’t sit well with him, and a coffin seemed wrong, especially so soon after his father had passed away. Of course, the sender likely didn’t know. The box held something beneath the sealed lid. He had felt weight shift inside when carrying it from the kitchen. If he didn’t like his gift, he could always return it to the sender. Or sell it all like Nine had suggested.

Holding a glass of her best piñot noir, Tara stood beside Peter. Her free hand knocked him on the back of the head.

Grimacing, Peter pushed his hair back in place and glared at his sister.

“I noticed the way you look at her,” said Tara, nodding towards the stairs.

“Nine?”

“You’re her boss, Peter,” said Tara, “so try to keep your dick in your pants.”

Peter shook his head. That was just like her, always riding him about everything she imagined. It seemed worse lately. Maybe she felt jealous about the restaurant, and had wanted it all along. He appreciated her coming for opening day and covering for the missing bartender, but he wished she would stick to her vineyard and leave his business alone.

“Ever wonder why you’re not married?” said Peter. He didn’t mean to snap back at her, but he decided he might as well keep going. “Because you say shit like that.”

Tara frowned and sipped her wine.

On her way out, Beth promised to send him the picture and wiggled her fingers goodbye. Peter smiled and wished her a safe drive home.

Nine returned with a pair of pry irons. Nine handed one of the bars to Peter and sat down near the foot of the coffin.

On one knee, Peter took his position near the head of the box.

“If we’re careful,” said Nine, “the damage will be minimal so we can sell this bad boy.” She set the prongs against the crack and hit the opener hard with her palm forcing the prongs in.

“Are you seriously going to open that thing in here?” asked Tara.

“If you want to sell, I mean,” said Nine. She gave the opener another hit.

On Nine’s count, Peter leaned on his bar while Nine pushed down on hers while Tara droned on about health code violations and Hallowe’en pranks. The lid creaked, but held firm.

“Peter,” said Nine, “if we find a pile of candy in here I’m going to smack you for not opening it sooner.”

“Why’s that?”

“Think about it. Trick-or-treaters grabbing handfuls of candy from a coffin. We could have been the coolest business on the block.”

Another push on the bars, and the coffin released a long groan.

“I don’t like the sound of that,” said Tara.

“It’s the seal,” said Nine. Looking at Peter, she smiled. “We’d smell it if there was anything atrocious inside.”

Lid popping open, the coffin spewed a fine dust smelling like cinnamon and lavender. Powder on his tongue, Peter closed his mouth and turned his head away.

“What the hell was that?” asked Tara. She slammed her glass down on the bar.

Licking his lips, Peter tasted the powder finding it sweet. Looking at Nine with concern, he felt relieved finding her casual grin. Perhaps dust came with the job. Setting the opener aside, he grasped the edge of the lid and lifted leaning it against the wall.

No padding or pillows, a thin red liner covered the inside of the coffin. A silver canister, nearly consuming the width of the box, sat near the center. Beside it, a composition book, which Nine snatched up. A samurai sword held in black ribbon hung on the near side.

Nine flipped through the composition book.

Uncertain what to make of it all, Peter reached out tentatively and touched the canister. Cold. Two hinged clasped held the lid down tight, and clear tape kept it sealed. Brown tape held a test tube to the side, and a blue stopper clenched a rubber tube dangling inside like a straw. Looking closer, Peter noticed a white chalky substance clinging to the inside of the test tube.

“Oh, shit,” said Peter. He couldn’t think of anything else to say, and sat down dropping his hands in his lap.

The chalky dust from the test tube had filled his lungs.

Setting the notebook down, Nine leaned over the coffin. “There’s a blue sticky on this canister,” she said.

“Peter,” said Tara, “should I call the cops?”

“Keep in freezer,” said Nine. She ripped tape pulling a small plastic bag free from the backside of the canister. “And there are two syringes. What is this about, Peter?”

Toxic joke, deadly attack, odd collectables mistakenly delivered to the wrong Peter Gray; it all swirled in his head. There were far easier ways to poison someone, and the powder could have released by accident, change in pressure sucking the fine powder from the test tube. No one with bad intentions would supply directions to keep the goods frozen, and include what appeared to be an expensive sword.

Nine ripped the tape from the canister. Unfastening the levers, she popped the lid of the canister open, and a rush of cold air pushed frost out.

“Are you sure you want to be doing that?” asked Tara. Taking a step closer, she leaned over Peter for a closer look.

Nine lifted the lid, revealing two plastic bags sitting on a bed of card ice pellets. Lifting a bag of red substance, she tapped the label indicating the contents. Blood.

“That’s blood, Peter,” said Tara.

“Thank you for pointing out the obvious,” said Peter.

Scrunching her face, Nine scowled at Peter.

Beneath the other bag of blood, a smaller bag containing clear liquid sat at the bottom. Lifting it, Nine squished the bag with her fingers pushing frosty bubbles around.

“We don’t need the cops,” said Peter. Twisting around, he looked for his sister. An empty wine glass sat on the end of the bar.

“This is one weird box of treats,” said Nine.

Looking at the contents, Peter tried to make sense of it. There might be useful information in the notebook, maybe even identifying the substance swimming around inside him, but a sword and packs of blood in a coffin seemed too bizarre for an unannounced gift.

“The red interior is divine,” said Nine. She placed the bags back inside the canister and closed the lid.

Peter picked up the scent of lavender again and paused. Sniffing the air heated his nostrils. He felt feint, but it passed. Taking in a deep breath, he felt better.

“Dammit,” said Peter. He grinned at Nine trying to appear apologetic. “Now I wish you had talked me into opening it earlier. A pile of candy in the coffin for the trick-or-treaters would have been sweet.”


You may read this same scene from Nine’s perspective in “Twilight Coffin”

Time Wraith 1. Purgatory Pain

Hi, welcome to my side of the story! You may follow me by using the first ‘➤ Next’ link, or you may switch to other sides using the ➤ Alternate link.

Thank you.


Dark, violet clouds storm overhead. Rolling hills, dry and cracked land gulps down the mist. Silence is a prison. Lightning flickers. It might be night, or day, there is no way of knowing.

Violet twilight.

I hear my name, not in the silent world or within my head. I listen to a memory.

Kandy.

Out of the purple mist, an ethereal fog condenses into ghostly forms. Skyscrapers surround me. Gazing through the pale forms, I see the endless wasteland beyond. A phantom city, apparitions on the sidewalk stroll in slow motion. Colorless, silent cars move on the roadway. Familiar. I think I’ve been here outside a music store. A ghost walks through me—chilling, and she fades away along with the city.

Ice filling my veins, my head throbs.

Another cloud erupts coalescing into shape of a horse, and I remember my first ride outside my old farmhouse back before carriages left their steeds behind.

Pain beats into my head. Is that you calling me?

Kandy.

Other ethereal memories—my home in Roseland, my car, the dance club—come and go in no discernible order. All around, my past haunts me.

Touching my cool face, I find my nose, mouth, teeth. My icy fangs bite into my lip, and drip blood onto my chin. Hand grasping my neck, I recall another memory, a blade slicing my throat. Nearby, a shovel stands pierced into the ground beside a shallow hole, a former grave. No going home again.

I scream silence hearing the pounding in my head.

I will never die.

Ghosts from my past float by like the march of the fallen. Within the procession, a shadow rises from the mist, a wraith dripping a smoking trail of lost souls. From darkness, a skull rises revealing fierce teeth. Swiping long talons slice through ghosts, fading. The wraith breathes vapors into its jaws consuming memories.

The skull seems to smile as its nebulous eyes ooze a violet mist over jagged cheekbones.

Fleeing the wraith, I reach out grasping at a ghost-memory of my car parked outside my favorite nightclub, darkness cuts through turning my car into pale smoke. Running. Talons claw inside chilling me. Spotting another ghostly world forming in the mist, I scramble, and as I reach out to my ethereal home, the vampire-wraith bites into the ghost stealing the memory.

Whirling around, I charge another phantom, my car parked along a curb. I recall the smell of cut grass and deep-fried potatoes. The car, my good companion, fades away into the purple haze of this timeless world burning a hole inside me. Tears of pain boil my soul, and I search the endless wasteland for another shade of my lovely automobile.

Pain is venom in my veins. The vampire-wraith chases me in my purgatory riding the edge of Hell.

Turning, I charge at the vampire-wraith and bite into its shoulder drinking in chilling nectar of pain until the vampire-wraith dissolves into rising vapor. Spotting my ethereal car, I run into a ghostly world letting it spill inside me. Cool breeze pushes my hair back, and I breathe in cinnamon and lavender bliss inviting me home. I climb into my car, turn the ignition, and I feel the thundering pistons crawling up my body.

Driving away from my purgatory pain, I cry my vow to the night.